Bruins

NHL rumors: Could Chris Kreider reach extension with Rangers before trade deadline?

NHL rumors: Could Chris Kreider reach extension with Rangers before trade deadline?

All eyes will be on the New York Rangers as Monday's NHL trade deadline nears.

Rangers winger Chris Kreider is the top player rumored to be available, but there's no guarantee New York trades him. Kreider is in the prime of his career with a contract that expires at the end of this season. The Rangers have a couple options to consider. One is trading Kreider for a package of draft picks and players. Another is to keep him and risk losing a valuable player for nothing in July. A third is signing him to an extension.

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What are the chances of Kreider and the Rangers coming to terms on an extension? Here's what longtime Rangers reporter Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote Sunday:

While contract talks are ongoing between management and the pending free-agent winger’s camp, it’s probably about 50-50 that Kreider and the Blueshirts will agree to a long-term contract over the next week in which the team plays Wednesday in Chicago, Friday in Carolina and Saturday at home against the Sharks, two days prior to the Feb. 24 deadline.

Later in Brooks' story, he writes, "It is believed that the Blueshirts would be willing to go six years, but perhaps not at as much as $7 million per."

TSN reported Tuesday the Bruins and Colorado Avalanche have emerged as frontrunners for a Kreider trade. He would be a huge addition for both teams.

The Bruins are in need of secondary scoring behind the Perfection Line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Kreider also is from Boxford, Mass., and played at Boston College for three seasons. The Avalanche are dealing with injuries to key players, including star forward Mikko Rantanen, who is expected to miss multiple weeks. Other teams including the defending champion St. Louis Blues reportedly have shown interest in Kreider.

There's more pressure on the Bruins to do something than the Avalanche. Several of Boston's top competitors in the Eastern Conference, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning, all made trades over the last two weeks to bolster their depth for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Haggerty: Bruins are in a pretty good cap situation before deadline

David Pastrnak falls short of milestone, but still makes Bruins history

David Pastrnak falls short of milestone, but still makes Bruins history

When the NHL suspended its regular season in mid-March, David Pastrnak's quest for 50 goals was put on hold. 

On Tuesday, that quest officially ended when Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that when the league does resume play, it will jump directly to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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With 48 goals in 70 games, the 24-year-old budding superstar finishes just shy of the elusive half-century mark, a milestone that no Bruin has reached since Cam Neely in the 1993-94 season.

Overall, five Bruins have scored at least 50 goals in a season: Phil Esposito (5 times), Neely (3 times), Rick Middleton, Ken Hodge, and Johnny Bucyk. With a dozen games left in the regular season, Pastrnak easily would have become the sixth Bruin with a 50-goal campaign if the global COVID-19 pandemic hadn't halted the season.

But Pastrnak was still able to achieve a feat that no Bruin has accomplished since the mid-70s.

His 48 goals are tied with Alex Ovechkin for the most in the NHL this season, meaning the two players will share the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer. Pastrnak becomes the first Bruin to lead the league in scoring since Esposito accomplished the feat in six straight seasons, from 1969-70 to 1974-75.

Pastrnak, who also led the league with 20 power-play goals and tied for the league lead with 10 game-winning goals, becomes only the fifth Bruin who played the entire season in Boston to lead the league in goals, joining Esposito, Bronco Horvath (tied with Bobby Hull in 1959-60), Roy Conacher (in 1938-39), and Cooney Weiland (in 1929-30).

The cancellation of the rest of the league's 2019-20 regular season means that the Bruins also won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 2013-14 with a league-high 100 points, while the B's goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak claims the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league this season (167 for a 2.39 goals against average).

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Updated betting lines after 24-team return format unveiled

Stanley Cup odds 2020: Updated betting lines after 24-team return format unveiled

The NHL announced Tuesday a return-to-play plan that will consist of a 24 teams, as well as the format to be used for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was a positive step for sports fans hoping to see the return of live games this summer.

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Given the unique situation surrounding COVID-19, it's difficult (if not impossible) to find a format that benefits all 24 teams fairly. Some teams will benefit more than others, but a return with a different format than normal is still better than the 2019-20 season not resuming at all.

The Stanley Cup currently belongs to the St. Louis Blues, who defeated the Boston Bruins in a hard-fought seven-game 2019 Stanley Cup Final series. These two teams both sit atop their respective conferences and, under the 24-team format, they will automatically earn a berth into the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins, Blues and the other top-four teams in each conference will play a round robin format to determine their seeding for the first round.

Boston and St. Louis also are among the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup following the league's return-to-play announcement.

Here are the latest Stanley Cup odds, via William Hill:

The Bruins finished the regular season with the best record and also ranked No. 1 with a plus-53 goal differential. Boston is aiming to become the first team since the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins to lose in the Stanley Cup Final and come back to win it the following season. 

It's impossible to predict how the long layoff will impact these teams, but there are some benefits for the Bruins. They've played a ton of hockey in recent seasons, and the roster as a whole is not a young one. The rest could help, and some of the team's players who were battling injuries before the season was suspended have had extra time to heal. The Bruins' veteran core also has played many years together, and it has loads of playoff experience.

Picking a winner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is one of the hardest tasks in sports, but if the league is successful in returning to game action, the Bruins will have a great shot to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and win their first championship since 2011.